Right up front, we’ll cop to the inevitable “not a hack” comments on this one. This video of the Steam Controller assembly plant is just two minutes of pure robotics porn, plain and simple.
From injection molding of the case parts through assembly, testing and final palletizing of packaged controllers for the trip to distributors, Valve’s video is amazingly detailed and very well made. We’d wager that the crane shots and the shots following product down conveyors were done with a drone. A grin was had with the Aperture Labs logo on the SCARA arms in the assembly and testing work cell, and that inexplicable puff of “steam” from the ceiling behind the pallet in the final shot was a nice touch too. We also enjoyed the all-too-brief time-lapse segment at around 00:16 that shows the empty space in Buffalo Grove, Illinois being fitted out.
This may seem like a frivolous video, but think about it: if you’re a hardware hacker, isn’t this where you want to see your idea end up? Think of it as inspiration to get your widget into production. You’ll want to get there in stages, of course, so make sure you check out [Zach Fredin]’s 2015 Hackaday Superconference talk on pilot-scale production.
Continue reading “Industrial Automation in Action: Steam Controller Assembly”
[Tom Lombardo] is an engineer and an educator. When a company sent him a Dino Pet–a bioluminescent sculpture–he found it wasn’t really usable as a practical light source. He did, however, realize it would be an interesting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) project for students to produce bioluminescent sculptures.
The lamps (or sculptures, if you prefer) contain dinoflagellates which is a type of plankton that glows when agitated. Of course, they don’t put out a strong light and–the main problem–you have to agitate the little suckers to get them to emit light. [Tom] found that there was a mild afterglow when you stop shaking, but not much. You can get an idea of how much light they make in the video below. The idea for a school project would be to make practical ambient lighting that didn’t require much input power to agitate the plankton.
Continue reading “Bioluminescent Challenge has Students Feeding Their Lamps”
Back in June when Hackaday attended LA Tech Day I met [Gray Bright]. He’s been a big fan of Hackaday for years and recently started producing and hosting The Tomorrow Show, a Late Night Talk Show focused on Science and Technology. [Gray] invited me on the show to talk about Hackaday and the 2015 Hackaday Prize.
[Gray’s] approach is to view scientists and engineers as the new rock stars. In each episode he invites some of the biggest names from the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) and conducts a thought-provoking and entertaining interview. There’s a healthy dose of comedy from future correspondent [Ant Simpson] and [SupernoVanGirl], live musical performances, and it’s all filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Filming the show in the Hollywood studio on a Friday night in July was a hoot. I was honored that our segment was on the same episode as the legendary engineer and entrepreneur [Nolan Bushnell], founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s. [Nolan] even did an impromptu standup set when there was a short technical delay.
You can watch the full episode (below the fold) to see antics from The Tomorrow Show team, [Nolan’s] anecdotes about the early days of Atari and being [Steve Jobs’] boss, as well as my first TV appearance spreading the word about the Hackaday Prize. It’s also hilarious to see [Nolan] hooked up via electrodes controlling [Gray] to play Brain Pong just like when we toured Backyard Brains last year.
Continue reading “Nolan Bushnell and Hackaday on the Latest Episode of The Tomorrow Show”
The STEAMLabs community makerspace teamed up with a grade 6 class from Vocal Music Academy, a public elementary school in downtown Toronto, to create a working model of the Ontario Power System. It pulls XML files and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains.
STEAMLabs is currently crowd-funding a new makerspace in Toronto. They’re almost there, a few hundred dollars short of their target, with a couple of days to go. Help them help kids and adults make amazing things! When Hackaday visited Toronto recently, [Andy Forest] dropped in to show off this project. Projects like these which let kids become creators of technology, rather than mere consumers, is one of the best ways to get them hooked to hacking from an early age.
Continue reading “School Kids Build Ontario Power Generation System Model”
The folks over at Valve Corporation have been busy. Just this week they have made three announcements regarding the future of their company; SteamOS, a linux-based operating system, Steam Machines (for running SteamOS), and the one we’re most interested in, the Steam Controller, an open controller. Not to worry though, the controller is not exclusive to the Steam Machines!
This is why we’re intrigued:
The Steam Controller was designed from the ground up to be hackable … We plan to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering.
We’re curious to see what that exactly means, but it definitely sounds promising! We know that Valve already takes in tons of customer feedback through their Steam Community and Workshop contributors, but how open is this controller really going to be? To read more about it as the information unfolds, check out the topics in the Steam Universe forum.
If you’re interested in joining the hardware beta, head on over here, but space is very limited.
We had no idea that what’s needed to convert an internal combustion engine to steam power is actually rather trivial. [David Nash] shows us how it’s done by performing the alterations on the engine of a string trimmer. These are the tools used to cut down vegetation around obstacles in your yard. The source of the engine doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a 2-cycle motor.
This engine had one spark plug which is threaded into the top of the block. [David] removed this and attached his replacement hardware. For now he’s using compressed air for development, but will connected the final version to a boiler.
There are only a couple of important parts between the engine and the boiler. There’s an in-line oil reservoir to help combat the corrosive nature of the steam. There is also a check valve. In the video after the break [David] shows the hunk of a ball-point pen that he uses to actuate the check valve. It’s really just a spacer that the piston pushes up to open the valve. This will be replaced with a metal rod in the final version.
Continue reading “How to convert an internal combustion engine to run from steam power”
This all-mechanical hexapod (translated) was meticulously planned and beautifully constructed. It’s not craning its neck to see what’s ahead. That’s a smoke stack for the steam engine which propels the machine.
Mechanically the legs were the hardest part. That’s only because the steam engine was not built from scratch. It’s a Wilesco D14 which is powered by solid fuel tablets. It puts out high RPM but low power so the gear ratio was set at 286:1 to make the most of its output.
The legs themselves are made of brass rods. These are anchored on one side of a larger gear, with a pivot point that allows the leg to slide vertically. The result is best seen in the clip after the break. As the drive wheel rotates, the pivot point moves the body forward until the foot is lifted by the sliding motion of the rod. It ends up looking more elegant than some of the more dexterous hexapods, but it lacks the ability to turn.
Continue reading “Steam-powered hexapod”